This year, is different, however: it's International Year of Pulses. Where would we be without beans? It seems like there's a bean or pea for everywhere, from everywhere; as readers of this blog may recall, my flexible use of the word 'root', has allowed the occasional geocarpic legume to storm the ramparts of Castle Radix in the past. No point stopping now.
My enthusiasm for talet (Amphicarpaea bracteata) is well-known and I'll come to my reasons for initiating another sowing session in due course. After some deliberation and in defiance of the impressively unpromising spring we've had, I've decided to give fate the finger and try a couple of other interesting underground legumes. So, my fellow rhizophiles, I give you my 2016 Trifoliate Triumvirate: Amphicarpaea bracteata, Arachis monticola and Vigna subterranea.
|My Trifoliate Triumvirate: top left: Amphicarpaea bracteata; top right: Vigna subterranea; bottom right: Arachis monticola|
There's a downside, of course - this is a crop wild relative, not an actual crop, after all. The peanuts that A. monticola produces are small and the plant distributes them far and wide, so harvesting them will be a pain. That said, I expect the rodents will manage to demolish the lot with their usual aplomb.
|A. monticola, diminutive monkey nuts|
|A. monticola, diminutive seeds|
If you want to know more about peanut wild relatives, including Arachis monticola, here's a good paper to start with:
Biogeography of wild Arachis (leguminosae): distribution and environmental characterisation
For more on the fascinating sex life of the peanut and its close relatives, you could have a look at this:
Genomic relationships between the cultivated peanut (Arachis hypogaea, Leguminosae) and its close relatives revealed by double GISH
Next up, is my wild card, Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterraneana), which I chose, not for its lofty altitude of origin, chill tolerance or any other possible pre-adaptations to life in Cornwall, but because I've never grown it before and I fancied an experiment. The beans come in all sorts of colours and the diverse batch I received looks like leguminous dolly mixture.
The mature beans are eaten roasted or boiled and are considered a complete food, containing about 65% carbohydrate, 18% balanced protein and 6.5% fat; bambara groundnut milk is said to be more palatable than soya milk, which can only be a good thing. In terms of bean distribution, it looks like the plants have abandoned their wild child ancestral habits and deposit their pods demurely, close to the base of the plants. For that the voles will be duly grateful.
Last but no means least, I give you talet (Amphicarpaea bracteata), tried and tested in our climate. Following on from the success of that trial, I was heartbroken when, a few weeks later, a pheasant plucker emptied the pots, scattered the labels and pretty much gobbled the entire crop, eliminating several varieties in the process. Not so fast, Mr Pheasant! All is not lost, due to talet's cunning amphicarpic strategy, whereby it hedges its bets through the production of different types of seeds, including hard, long-lived ones. I've kept a stash of the latter type of all my varieties in case of just such an eventuality. Time to open it and resurrect those that were lost. I'll give the finger to a pheasant just as soon as I will to fate.
|Sprouting subterranean talets (Amphicarpaea bracteata)|